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Empowering customer service agents to go above and beyond

Posted August 15, 2018
7788Customer service agent smiling at camera

As a primary point of contact with your company, customer service agents represent your brand, build loyalty and satisfaction with your customers and de-escalate conflicts on your behalf — all in the name of creating an exceptional customer experience. Companies that empower their agents to provide the best possible service can gain a competitive advantage, and are sure to see a positive impact on their revenue growth.

For all the talk of “exceptional customer service,” however, it isn’t always easy to envision exactly what an exchange between a customer and top-notch agent might look like. The following four best practices, featuring real scenarios from TELUS International, have been proven to empower frontline agents to exceed customer expectations.

1. Thoughtfully hire and train your agents

The majority of issues agents deal with are broached by customers. Hiring qualified and proficient agents, as well as providing in-depth product training, creates an opportunity for them to anticipate problems and avoid a conflict before it even begins.

Such was the case with Kathryn*, an agent who noticed that sporadic product issues were impacting a business software client’s customers. The issues weren’t frequent enough to constitute an outage or attract attention from other departments, so they went undetected — and therefore, the root cause went unresolved.

Unwilling to let the situation slide, Kathryn took it upon herself to develop an emerging issues form and associated dashboard to log the ongoing customer problems and send them to support experts to resolve. The process was so effective that the client rolled it out globally.

Providing world-class customer care isn’t just about solving individual problems fast. Taken to the next level, it’s about proactively seeking ways to improve the overall experience for everyone. Keep this in mind during the hiring process to build a bright, motivated team of individuals, and empower them to make decisions for the good of your customers as a whole.

2. Encourage an empathetic approach

While proficiency is extremely important in an agent, building emotional intelligence and teaching active listening will further equip your customer service team with critical skills to resolve all kinds of issues, no matter how serious.

Jeremy*, a car rental agent working in one of our European locations, received a call from a customer whose pregnant wife was having contractions. The customer needed a car to get her to the hospital. Unfortunately, it was a bank holiday in the country and all the rental branches were either closed or fully booked that day. Jeremy listened to the man’s concerns and went above and beyond to find alternative transportation for the expectant parents. His support was deeply appreciated by the new dad, who was impressed by the outstanding service he received in his time of need.

Jeremy demonstrated the kind of emotional intelligence companies should encourage in their agents. Empathy is a trait you can look for during the hiring process and can continue to develop in your agents using expert strategies to build compassion.

3. Create a caring culture

Many contact centers follow the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” But exceptional agents take this one step further. They follow the Platinum Rule, explained in Psychology Today as: “Treat others the way_they_would like to be treated.” This concept motivates agents to leave their personal presumptions behind and to instead think about what the customer really wants.

Consider agents Emily* and Andrew*, who were working for a gaming client when they received a report from a player who was deeply concerned that their teammate in the game might be suicidal. Emily and Andrew quickly investigated the claim and notified the police. The police were able to find the player at his home and transport him to the hospital for help.

Thanks to their compassion, Emily and Andrew helped save the player’s life. When companies create a culture of caring, where the Platinum Rule is not the exception, but the norm, agents will be inspired to go out of their way to support and nurture their customers.

4. Establish programs that recognize agent success

There are times when consistently outstanding agents take their devotion to their customers to an even higher level. Acknowledging those instances through timely and meaningful recognition can encourage similar behavior from others.

One such case of exceptional service involved Vivienne*, who worked on the customer service team for a large gaming client. Vivienne was contacted by a player who wanted to surprise his niece with a plush toy associated with the game, but was having trouble locating the toy. The toy was intended to be a birthday gift — but unfortunately, the merchandise was out of stock.

Vivienne was so affected by the customer’s story that she handmade the plush toy for the player’s niece, shipping it to the birthday girl in time for her special day. The act left the player grateful to the point of being speechless, and Vivienne was recognized by her team with her own party for a job well-done.

Recognizing these types of special acts by rewarding agents with special privileges or gifts can improve agent retention, boost morale and encourage others to seek ways to emulate the behavior.

Because of the individual and nuanced nature of customer issues, it’s not always easy to define exactly what superior customer service looks like, but as in the cases above, you’ll certainly know it when you see it! When you provide ongoing training, develop empathy, create a caring culture, and thoughtfully recognize your agents, you’ll empower and equip them with the required skills and inspiration to provide exceptional personalized customer experiences during every consumer interaction.

*Names changed for confidentiality

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